Midnight Express (film)

1978 film by Alan Parker

Midnight Express is a 1978 film that tells the true story of Billy Hayes, an American college student who is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison.

Directed by Alan Parker. Written by Oliver Stone, based on Hayes' 1977 non-fiction book.
Everybody gave up on Billy Hayes -- except Billy.  taglines

Billy Hayes

  • [voiceover] To the Turks, everything is "shurla burla", which means "like this, like that". You never know what will happen. All foreigners are "ayip", they're considered dirty. So is homosexuality, it's a big crime here, but most of them do it every chance they get. There are about thousand things that are "ayip", for instance, you can stab or shoot somebody below the waist but not above because that's intent to kill. So everyone runs around stabbing everyone else in the ass. That's what they call Turkish revenge. I know it must all sound crazy to you, but this place is crazy.
  • [to the Turkish court] I just wish for once that you could be in my shoes, Mr. Prosecutor, and then you would know something that you don't know: mercy! That the concept of a society is based on the quality of that mercy; its sense of fair play; its sense of justice! But I guess that's like asking a bear to shit in the toilet. [In the red border clamshell VHS, He says: But I guess that's like asking a bear to use a potty trainer.]
  • [to the Turkish court] For a nation of pigs, it sure is funny you don't eat'em! Jesus Christ forgave the bastards, but I can't! I hate! I hate you! I hate your nation! And I hate your people! And I fuck your sons and daughters because they're pigs! [Red border clamshell VHS: And I hate your sons and daughters because they're pigs!] You're a pig! You're all pigs.
  • Dear Susan: Poor Jimmy was caught and beaten so badly he got a severe hernia, and lost a testicle. He's been in the sanitarium for months. In comparison, my problems seem very small.
  • What is a crime? What is punishment? It seems to vary from time to time and place to place. What's legal today is suddenly illegal tomorrow because society says it's so, and what's illegal yesterday is suddenly legal because everybody's doin' it, and you can't put everybody in jail. I'm not saying this is right or wrong. I'm just saying that's the way it is. But I've spent 3 1/2 years of my life in your prison, and I think I've paid for my error, and if it's your decision today to sentence me to more years, then I... [he becomes overcome with anger]
  • [Tex has a large revolver pointed at Billy whom he just recaptured trying to escape] You seem like a nice enough kid to me, Billy, but you try it and I'll blow your fuckin' brains out.


  • Ahmet: Where are you going? Why don't you walk the wheel with us? What is the matter my American friend? What has upset you? Oh! I know. The bad machine doesn't know that he's a bad machine. You still don't believe it. You still don't believe you're a bad machine? To know yourself is to know God, my friend. The factory knows, that's why they put you here. You'll see... You'll find out... In time, you'll know.


Tex: Boy oh boy, you picked a bad time to fly, Billy. They're guerrillas all over the place blowing up planes and all. They hit four planes in four days. But I guess you young people don't read the news anymore. That, and with our people back home kicking up a shitstorm about the flow of heroin from Turkey...
Billy Hayes: I didn't have heroin. It was just a little hashish.
Tex: That doesn't matter. A drug's a drug.
Billy Hayes: It was only two kilos.
Tex: It doesn't matter if it was two kilos or 200 kilos. The Turks love catching foreigners. They want to show the rest of the world that they're fighting the drug trade.
Billy Hayes: Who are you? What's your name?
Tex: That's not important.
Billy Hayes: Are you with the American consulate here in Istanbul?
Tex: Something like that.

Tex: Do you have a family back home?
Billy Hayes: Yeah, a mother, father, sister and brother living in Babylon, Long Island.
Tex: It's gonna be tough for them. You'll have to tell them about what you're in sooner or later. Say, how much did you pay this joker? The cab driver for the hash you bought?
Billy Hayes: $200. It was my last 200.
Tex: How much did you expect to make if you had brought that stuff back to the USA?
Billy Hayes: I was only gonna share it or sell some of it to by friends. I'm not a pusher. Honest.
Tex: [scoffs] Yeah, right. Selling dope always beats working.

Tex: You got a girlfriend, Billy?
Billy Hayes: Yeah. She was on the plane.
[Tex glares at Billy]
Billy Hayes: She didn't know anything about it. I didn't want her to.
Tex: Lucky girl.
Billy Hayes: She used to say I was the lucky one.
Tex: Let's hope you're right, Billy. Let's hope you're right.

Billy Hayes: I'm Billy Hayes.
Jimmy: I'm Jimmy. Jimmy Booth. I'm an American just like you. This other guy here is Erich... something. I can't pronouce his last name. He's Swedish or something.
Erich: Just Erich.
Jimmy: Yeah... well, what do you think of this place, Billy?
Billy Hayes: [looks around the prison hall and courtyard] Looks like some cheap rundown hotel.
Jimmy: Yeah, thought you'd say that. Everyone says that this place looks like a cheap hotel.
Billy Hayes: [sees peacocks along the fence of the prison] Peacocks. Why peacocks?
Jimmy: The Turks use 'em instead of dogs to patrol the fence because they shriek like hell when they're approached or disturbed. Plus, they don't get rabies.
[a little boy runs past them]
Billy Hayes: Who are the kids?
Jimmy: Kids? They're not kids. They're local street urchins the Turks lock up here in a separate wing for the juveniles. Boys as young as nine or ten years old. They're thieves, drug dealers, muggers, con artists, pickpockets, rapists, murderers... you name it, they do it. Don't trust any of them!

Jimmy: So... Billy, what are you in for? Hash?
Billy Hayes: Yeah.
Jimmy: Where'd they get you?
Billy Hayes: The airport... trying to get home.
Jimmy: You go through customs?
Billy Hayes: Yeah, I was busted right at the plane.
Jimmy: Aw, man that's heavy. That's very heavy.
Erich: It's bad if they get you for smuggling, but if they make it possession, the sentence is lighter. The best thing for you to do, Billy, is try to make bail. If you make bail, you're free. You can easily get yourself a fake passport on the black market, or get yourself across the border into Greece.
Jimmy: Dream on, Erich. They'll never grant bail to foreigners whom may be a flight risk.
Erich: But if you argue in court about you being innocent...
Jimmy: This ain't the good ol' USA! This is Turkey, man! It's a fuckin' accident here if you're innocent! There ain't nobody here that is innocent!

Billy Hayes: What's Jimmy's story? Why is he in here? Hash?
Erich: No. He was caught stealing from a mosque. That is also a heavy crime here in Turkey.
Billy Hayes: What did he steal?
Erich: Two candle sticks.
Billy Hayes: That's all?
Erich: That's all.
Billy Hayes: Why? Why would he do that?
Erich: Who knows? He's always been a wild child. He's got more balls then brains. Did you know that he was in here for a year-and-a-half before he told his parents what happened to him?
Billy Hayes: What about you? What are you in for?
Erich: Hashish. 90% of the foreigners here are in for hashish or drug related charges from smuggling to possession. My advice is you get yourself a very good lawyer and try to argue down the charge you face. If they make it possession, the sentence is lighter.
Billy Hayes: What were you convicted of?
Erich: Smuggling hash with the intent to sell.
Billy Hayes: What sentence did you receive?
Erich: 12 years. I've been here for just over four years.
Billy Hayes: How much did you have on you?
Erich: 100 grams.

Mr. Hayes: With good time, Billy, it works to about, uh, 3 years, and then there's the appeal, and, uh, Daniels, and, uh, Yesil—they're all workin' for you. We're gonna try to get you transferred to a stateside prison. And Daniels thinks there might be a political amnesty any month now. All right. All right, Billy. I know it sounds tough, but we are going to get you out! I promise you. I don't want you to get stupid and pull anything. They can play with your sentence. All right. Now, I'm putting 500 dollars in the bank. Anything you need, you write. There's food here. There's candy. And there's...uh...writing paper. Books. Cigarettes. Soap. Toothbrush... [Empties bag onto table, slams it down] I've been writing insurance policies for 30 goddamn ["freaking" in the red border clamshell VHS] years and now I've got to see my own son - Jesus. JESUS!!! Billy, if I could be where you are... I'd be there.
Billy Hayes: I love you, Dad.
[Guards take him away]
Mr. Hayes: [to Hamidou] You take good care of my boy, you hear? Or I'll have your fuckin' head, you Turkish bastard! [On the Red border clamshell VHS, he instead says: "You take good care of my boy, you hear? Or I'll have your freakin' head, you Turkish coward!"]

Max: The best thing to do is to get your ass ["butt" in the red border clamshell VHS] out of here. Best way that you can.
Billy Hayes: Yeah, but how?
Max: Catch the midnight express.
Billy Hayes: But what's that?
Max: [laughs] Well it's not a train. It's a prison word for... escape. But it doesn't stop around here.

Jimmy: The second way out, I need you guys' help, and that's under.
Billy Hayes: You mean tunnel? Are you serious?
Max: This is Shagmahr prison, not Stalag 17.
Jimmy: Well that's where you're wrong fuckface, 'cause it's already built!

Ahmet: Oh no. A bad machine doesn't know when he's a bad machine.
Billy Hayes: Oh, I know who I am. And I know who you are. I know that you are a bad machine. And do you know how I know that? [Ahmet shakes his head] Because I come from the factory. I MAKE the machines!


  • Everybody gave up on Billy Hayes—except Billy.
  • A story of triumph.
  • Walk into the incredible true experience of Billy Hayes, and bring all the courage you can!


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